Strength can be a complex and multifaceted concept that is influenced by a range of societal and cultural factors. The mental model surrounding strength is a sociocultural phenomenon. As a society, we have a common idea of what strength is. A shared set of assumptions on a societal scale about what is strong, or weak for that matter, without truly understanding what the word means. Simply, assuming and manipulating the word’s unstated meaning and how it works to fit our mental models.
My aim is to help shift the narrative around strength, creating a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the role that strength plays in our health and well-being, and how sociocultural attitudes and biases can impact our perceptions and experiences of strength.
“Don’t lift heavy weights or you’ll look like a bodybuilder”. In many cultures, including our own, strength is often correlated with having a certain body type or physique, such as having big muscles or a lean, toned body.
This belief is often reinforced by cultural stereotypes that associate physical strength with manliness while portraying women as weaker. This societal paradigm can create false expectations and pressure around body image, leading to misconceptions and ultimately causing people to avoid any type of “strength training”, despite its many health benefits. “I don’t lift heavy weights because I don’t want to look like that.” Further, this societal paradigm can also impact the way that medical doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, trainers/coaches, and other health professionals perceive and treat men and women with musculoskeletal issues, potentially leading to discrepancies in treatment care and outcomes.
Because of the sociocultural collective mindset, it can be difficult to challenge the current model of thinking—people resist letting go, despite it potentially being for their own good. My goal isn’t to convince people to change their minds, but rather, to educate open-minded people on the value of strength training.
For instance, you can strengthen component parts of your low back, ie, connective tissue architecture which will lead to an overall stronger lower back. Doing this type of training will in no way result in “a bodybuilder’s back”, rather, just a stronger and more robust lower back. From my experience, nobody has ever said that they are fine with having a weak low back.
In conclusion, the concept of strength is deeply ingrained into societies and cultures, heavily shaping our perceptions and expectations in complex ways. These sociocultural “norms” often associate strength with certain body types and reinforce gender stereotypes, creating misconceptions and pressure around body image. Moreover, the collective mental model makes it difficult to challenge these old ideas, despite the potential benefits of redefining our understanding and biases surrounding strength. By educating open-minded individuals on the value of strength training, we can shift the narrative, embracing the importance of strength. Not only in terms of physical abilities but also in terms of overall resilience and robustness, we can empower individuals to pursue optimal health and challenge the large-scale biases that limit our perceptions of strength.
Plus get our free monthly video blog on accessing what you love most - your body and optimizing your joint health!